From 22 to 24 May 2016, the President of the Senate, Ankie Broekers-Knol, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Khadija Arib, attended a conference for all EU parliamentary presidents and speakers. The subjects under discussion included the parliamentary dimension of the Dutch EU Presidency, which focuses on the role of national parliaments and the importance of both interparliamentary collaboration and the exchange of information between parliaments.
Looking back on the Dutch Presidency of the European Union
An admirable tradition during this annual conference is that the country holding the EU Presidency reflects on the past year and passes on best practices. The President and Speaker introduced their presentation by screening a short film outlining the highlights of the interparliamentary conferences. President of the Senate Ankie Broekers-Knol explained that the film was an example of the innovative means of communication utilised by the Dutch parliament. An app was also developed with a chat function for conference participants, and events organised prior to the conferences included a film evening and a working visit. These activities gave participants the opportunity to get to know each other better and to delve deeper into the subjects at hand. During the review, Speaker of the House Khadija Arib concentrated on the overarching theme of the parliamentary dimension of the Dutch EU Presidency: working together to strengthen parliamentary scrutiny of EU decision-making. ‘It is important that we seek out connections. This applies to national parliaments, where everybody works from the perspective of their own political party, from their own ideology, but where – as representatives of the people – we remain focused on the common good. But it also applies to parliaments themselves – the parliaments of the 28 EU member states and the European Parliament. Not only because we are more effective when we work together, but primarily because that is the only way forward. A large number of social problems extend beyond national borders’.
Other points of discussion
During the conference, delegates also discussed the third yellow card– one of the instruments made available to parliaments by the Treaty of Lisbon – being shown regarding amendments to the Posting of Workers Directive. Arib stated that, in principle, the House of Representatives warmly welcomes all moves to strengthen the role of national parliaments. She also reminded delegates that parliamentary scrutiny is one of the subjects that will be addressed during the final interparliamentary conference to be held by the Dutch parliament in June.
In her conference speech, the Broekers-Knol focused on the management of migration flows. She emphasised the vital importance of solidarity within the EU, and of striving to develop sustainable solutions. She stated that unambiguous EU asylum policy needs to be introduced, which quickly provides refugees and asylum seekers with clarity regarding their prospects of staying. She also argued that EU member states should increase investment in guarding external borders, which could eventually result in the Schengen border controls being lifted. Broekers-Knol emphasised that a long-term solution will only be reached through coherent international policy, in which the EU assists by tackling the fundamental causes of migration.